IT MAY seem a world away from Britain's Got Talent or The X Factor, but pictures from nearly 50 years ago prove our young people have always been keen to show off their star quality.

Some of the country's most promising movers and shakers travelled from far and wide to reach the Hammersmith Palais on June 4, 1963, when the historic venue held the national finals of the Juvenile and Junior Old Time Dancing Contests.

Making a grand entrance in a black cab is Paul Thomson, 11, dressed in a formal evening suit, who looks the perfect gentleman as he opens the door to help his 10-year-old partner, Susan Millard, on to the pavement.

The pair had already been dancing together for two years and were both gold medal-holders in the old time style, which is a type of American folk dance based on traditional British and European styles. Fiddle and banjo players would have featured heavily in the live band brought in to accompany the dancers.

Also competing at the Palais that day were nine-year-old friends Jacqueline Farrell and Sylvia Melling, from St Helens in Lancashire, who were captured in their incredible matching crinoline ball gowns and haircuts while performing an impromptu dance outside the venue.

A group of young men look on nonchalantly, striking vaguely rock 'n' roll poses in their T-shirts and baseball shoes. Inside, even more fun was to be had - and not always on the dance floor. One young girl is pictured taking a break on a staircase, contentedly licking an ice cream cone and appearing untroubled at the idea of any drips falling on her dress.

The final picture shows 11-year-old Johnny Oswald enjoying being the centre of attention, surrounded by a group of pretty girls from the Lindsay Dancing School in Dunfermline, Fife, in Scotland.

Their elaborate ball gowns look professionally manufactured, but a close-up view of the lace-work reveals they were all probably home-made by mothers who lavished hours of hard work and loving attention. * Do any readers recall the old time dancing contests of the early 1960s?

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